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Photo by Dave Flessner / The new Storm's car wash will open soon on Hunter Road just off the Ooltewah exit on Interstate 75.

Two local car wash businesses are expanding in the Ooltewah area with new automated wash facilities scheduled to open in the next month or two.

Storm Car Wash, which operates stores in East Brainerd and Hixson, is adding a new $5 million location on Hunter Road in Ooltewah, slated to open in April. Surf's Up Car Wash, which currently operates two locations in Cleveland and one on Signal Mountain Road in Chattanooga, is building a $3.8 million facility at the intersection of Lee Highway and Standifer Gap Road which should open by late March.

Both of the local owners say they are eager to add locations in the growing Ooltewah area.

"There is a lot of population growth in the Ooltewah area and we're right off Interstate 75 with this new location," said Tommy Maynard, owner of Storm Car Wash.

The 1.5-acre site near the intersection of Hunter Road and Mountainview Road will feature Storm's belt-conveyor system to move vehicles through the wash tunnel without any rails or tire brushes that might potentially scratch some wheels.

"We also feature the regions only "Buff-N-Dry" that actually shammies the remaining water from the hood, windshield and roof leaving a spot free shiny car," said Maynard, a former flight paramedic with Lifeforce who initially operated his Hixson Pike car wash under the Auto Shine Car Wash name for a decade before adopting the Storm car wash name in 2018.

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Photo by Dave Flessner / The newest Surf's Up car wash is taking shape on Lee Highway at Standifer Gap Road.

Four miles away on Lee Highway, a new Surf's Up Car Wash is taking shape as the fourth location for the business owned by Jon Woodward. Started in 2009 on Signal Mountain Road, Surf's Up added two locations in Cleveland, Tennessee. The new Surf's Up Car Wash on a corner lot at Lee Highway and Standifer Gap Road will be the biggest yet for the local chain.

"This is an underserved area of the city for car washes so we feel like this site has a great potential for us," Woodward said. "Any of the car washes we build, we try to be a few miles from our nearest competitor."

At the grand opening expected next month, Woodward said he will initially be offering some free car washes to allow motorists to see the advantages of the Surf's Up wash, which includes five different types of cleaning options through the express wash tunnel.

"We try to keep the latest in equipment to make sure we are state-of-the-art and offer the best customer experience we can," said Woodward, who moved to Chattanooga from Arizona in 1995 to open Express Shuttle and then entered the car wash business after selling his former business to Groome Transportation. "The cost of building these units continues to go up, but we're hopeful this will be a good new location."

The market research company IBISWorld said business softened last spring for the $11 billion-a-year car washing industry amid the pandemic as more Americans stayed at home. But the industry is projected to grow steadily over the next five years, propelled by more vehicles on the road and more people living in apartments or condominiums that limit the ability to wash a car at home.

"This is the way that probably 95% of people clean their cars today," Woodward said. "It's just incredibly easy to come here where we have everything you need and it's quick and does an incredibly good job."

Both Surf's Up and Storm, like most other automated car wash chains, offer a monthly membership that allows members to get their vehicle washed as much as they want for a monthly fee.

Maynard said he has nearly 3,000 members who can get washes at any of his Storm locations.

"If you like to keep your car clean, the membership is a very good value," he said. "If you wash your car two times or more a month, you can save money with the membership."

The automated car washes are able to handle more cars with a limited staff. The new units will usually be staffed with four to six employees at any one time, the owners said.

Storm car washes are usually open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., although they stay open until 9 p.m. in the summer. Surf's Up locations are open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. during standard time and from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on daylight savings time.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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